WAVERLY – As Nebraska reported the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state last week, public facilities in the Waverly area are watching what unfolds.
Last Friday, a 36-year-old Omaha woman was taken to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for treatment of coronavirus, also called COVID-19. The woman had recently traveled to the United Kingdom with her father. Her father and another family member have also tested positive for the virus and are self-quarantined in their Omaha area home.
State health officials said the woman, who was identified in an article in the Omaha World-Herald as special needs, played in a Special Olympics basketball game at the YMCA in Fremont on Feb. 29.
Many other Special Olympics athletes and coaches were at the tournament, and secondary contact is a concern for area schools.
During a press conference on Monday about COVID-19, Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD) officials reported that they are monitoring 40 people in Lancaster County because of possible exposure to the virus. Some attended the Special Olympics basketball event.
Waverly Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Cory Worrell said no students or staff from District 145 attended the Special Olympics basketball event in Fremont, so there was no threat of exposure there.
The next day, some youth wrestlers from Waverly were participating in a district tournament in Fremont. They were there when local officials there cut the meet short after learning that the Fremont schools, universities, library and other public facilities were closing to prevent possible spread of the virus.
No one at the youth wrestling meet has been diagnosed with coronavirus, and Worrell said health officials reported that the Waverly youth are not at risk.
“We have been told that these students should not have been considered at risk for attending or participating in this event,” he said.
Fremont public and parochial schools and Plattsmouth and Logan View public school districts have cancelled classes for at least a week in response to the virus.
Lincoln Public Schools is on spring break this week, but will resume classes March 16 as scheduled, said Dr. Steve Joel, superintendent, during a Monday press conference in Lincoln.
Worrell said District 145 remains open for classes and activities.
“We have not considered canceling classes at this point because there are no confirmed cases that affect our buildings at this time,” he said on Monday.
In some instances, some school-related events are being cancelled or postponed because of the virus threat. The 2020 National Geographic GeoBee State Competition was originally supposed to be held at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on March 27. However, due to concerns about the COVID-19 virus, the contest will be done online on the same day.
The State Basketball Championships are still set to start Thursday in Lincoln, according to information published in a Lincoln Journal Star article on Monday.
Worrell said Monday that District 145 has not decided to cancel or reschedule any activities that include the public.
“We are still in discussion on how we handle public events in the future,” he said.
A diagnosis of COVID-19 is more prevalent in adults than in children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that most confirmed cases of the virus have occurred in adults. Older adults and adults with chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease or those who have compromised immune systems are more susceptible to the disease.
As a precaution against the virus, District 145 officials have stepped up sanitation in “high touch” areas in the school facilities, Worrell said. High touch areas include doorknobs and other surfaces that are frequently touched by students and staff.
At Raymond Central Public Schools, they have ordered additional antibacterial cleaning supplies for all three school sites, in case they are needed, according to a statement on the school district’s website.
“Custodial staff will continue to take preventative measures such as wiping down tables/desks to control the spread of germs,” the statement said.
The school district is also emphasizing to patrons of the district the importance of preventative measures: “As a final reminder, we strongly encourage you to use this opportunity to remind your students of the importance of getting rest and washing hands, especially during the cold and flu season.”
As of Monday, there had been 423 total cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 19 deaths. The virus has been reported in 34 states and the District of Columbia. In Nebraska, along with the three people with a confirmed diagnosis, nine are undergoing further testing at the Nebraska Public Health Lab, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Thirty-six cases have tested negative so far, the DHHS also reports.
According to the CDC, Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department suggests that anyone who experiences these symptoms should self-quarantine and call their health care provider. Health officials also urge anyone who is exhibiting possible symptoms of COVID-19 or any other illness to stay home.
The virus spreads by person-to-person contact when respiratory droplets are expelled by a cough or sneeze and land in the mouth or nose of someone standing nearby. The virus can also live on hard surfaces or objects and be passed along when these areas are touched and then the person touches their face.
Everyday preventative measures include avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick; keeping hands from eyes, nose and mouth; covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue that is discarded immediately; cleaning and disinfecting high touch objects and surfaces and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Hotlines have been set up to deal with COVID-19 questions. They include LLCHD’s hotline at 402-441-8006 and the CDC’s information line, 800-232-4636.